Intelligence Denied

Posted By on April 21, 2006

“How the Director of the Intelligent Design Undergraduate Research Center Transgressed the Etiquette of Blogging”

.: How it all began:

.: Last Wednesday, the Baylor Lariat published an article called In The Beginning: Baylor not immune to scholarly feud over origin of life. In the past, Baylor had established an Intelligent Design research center, the first of its kind at a university. It was called the Michael Polanyi Center, and it didn’t last very long. A compromise was formed that had the MPC integrated into Baylor’s Institute for Faith and Learning. It’s director, William A. Dembski, was dismissed from his position after he refused to retract a press release in which he stated after the compromise:

“Dogmatic opponents of design who demanded the Center be shut down have met their Waterloo. Baylor University is to be commended for remaining strong in the face of intolerant assaults on freedom of thought and expression.”

.: Later, the Center was renamed Program in Science, Philosophy and Religion, and Dembski left Baylor with little fanfare to preach to the choir teach at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky as Carl F. H. Henry Professor of Theology and Science.

.: But that’s all in the past, by which I mean last year. The most recent incident to cause outcry from supporters of intelligent design was the denial of tenure to Francis Beckwith, an associate professor of church-state studies who has argued that teaching intelligent design in public classrooms is constitutionally permissible. At least, there’s speculation that Beckwith was denied tenure because of his ties with intelligent design, most notably the fact that he’s a fellow of the Discovery Institute in Seattle. Baylor’s Provost, however, has stated that Beckwith’s writings on ID had nothing to do with his denial of tenure.

.: None of that is the reason for this post’s existence, however; all of it is mere backstory. The real story is that in the Lariat article the Discovery Institute was described as a conservative Christian think-tank, and the DI objected, claiming they were a “secular, non-partisan, non-profit public policy center [that deals] with national and international affairs.”* The Lariat retracted their original article, replacing their description with the one provided by the Discovery Institute, word for word, and offered the following correction:

Wednesday’s article “in the Beginning” contained several errors.

The Seattle-based Discovery Institute is a secular, nonpartisan, nonprofit public policy center dealing with national and international affairs, not a conservative Christian think-tank.

Dr. Francis Beckwith is not a member of the institute but a fellow, which means he received funding for research.

Beckwith, who was described as a proponent of teaching intelligent design alongside traditional scientific theory, said he believes there are good reasons why a public school should not require the teaching of ID, but there are no good constitutional reasons to prohibit a teacher from teaching it or a school board from requiring it.

Beckwith’s statement that “intelligent design arguments–in principle–cannot be excluded from the realm of science,” was not in the context of theology, but a question of philosophy of science having to do with the preconditions of science itself.

A corrected version of the story may be viewed online at

.: I don’t really care about this Beckwith guy. I read his debate with Douglas Laycock, and I remained unimpressed with position. However, the statement I take issue with is the Discovery Institute’s insistence that they are a secular, nonpartisan, nonprofit public policy center dealing with national and international affairs, not a conservative Christian think thank.” Granted, they do deal with national and international affairs, like transportation and economic policies, but nowadays when someone mentions “the Discovery Institute,” it’s pretty much given to be largely synomous with their own Center for Science & Culture. The CSC (formerly the Center for the Renewal of Science & Culture), can be demonstrably shown as a conservative Christian think tank, and all one needs to do to show this is quote their own words from that ever-present Wedge Document:

“Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies. Bringing together leading scholars from the natural sciences and those from the humanities and social sciences, the Center explores how new developments in biology, physics and cognitive science raise serious doubts about scientific materialism and have re-opened the case for a broadly theistic understanding of nature.”

“Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.”

“To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.”

.: Any rational person would have to wonder how an organization whose stated goals are to overthrow secularist philosophy in the natural sciences could possibly claim that they themselves are a secular organization!

Chen proudly displays this comic on his blog, noting that it is “fair representation of the debate between design and evolution today.” However, he also notes that this comic was originally published in 1981, when the caption included “creationism,” not “intelligent design.” It’s nice to see Chen acknowledge how little the “debate” has changed, though I think the irony is missed by him.

.: For an answer, we to turn to one Samuel Chen, director of the Intelligent Design Undergraduate Research Center. Chen, I found out, is a freshman in the Honor College at Baylor who’s double majoring in philosophy and political science. On his blog, Doubting Darwin, he reported the Lariat story and its alleged inaccuracies. I posted those quotations above and he responded to them. Well, not at first. He actually deleted my comment. My guess as to why is that, in addition to those troubling quotes, it also contained a snarky remark by me along the lines of “How stupid of them to think they are anything but a secular organization!”

.: Not impressed with his breach of blogging etiquette, I reposted the quotations, sans snarky remark. He responded thusly:

Cody, you are quoting from various parts of the “wedge document” and so forth. These are documents [sic – it’s just one document] that we, including DI, do not necessarily agree with. Meaning, we have seen certain errors with intelligent design in the past and with promoting it and have worked to change those errors so we can stay honest.

.: That’s seriously what he posted. Seriously. I want you to read that again. Got it? Good. Now read this:

In what follows we cite and discuss the document’s major points and offending passages, none of which support the claims that our opponents have made about us, and all of which we continue to affirm. The “Wedge Document”: So What?

.: So Chen asserts that he does not agree with certain statements from the Wedge Document (the way he words it, he disagrees with the entire wedge document itself, but I don’t think that’s the case). That’s fine. He’s welcome to accept whatever positions he likes and discard whatever positions he doesn’t. But he also states that the DI does not agree with the wedge document, even though they have released a public statement to the contrary. Clearly, in light of the evidence presented above, Chen is wrong. It cannot be stated any simpler than that. The question, then, is will Chen admit that he was wrong?

.: The answer turns out to be no. In fact, in order to avoid answering this embarrassing question, Chen has decided to simply delete his own comment as if it never existed, which is highly odd of him, considering he left mine, which quoted nearly every word from his original, now-deleted comment. I submit that this is behavior unbecoming of a director of an organization like the Intelligent Design Undergraduate Research Center.

.: Additionally, there were other comments by Chen that were shown to be erroneous and evasive. One commentator quoted Barbara Forrest’s analysis of the Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science & Culture as a think tank with conservative and religious goals. Chen provided this response:

Dr. Barbara Forest [sic] is the former president of the Louisiana ACLU and a leader in the evolution movement. “Plunge” hinted in another post that we shouldn’t accept what Dr. Forrest Mims says because he is a proponent of intelligent design and his view are tainted. However, it appears that evolutionists are quick to accept what Dr. Barbara Forest [sic] says, because it’s somehow untainted. Bascially, evolutionists have this policy: if it’s from an intelligent design proponent, it must be wrong. If it’s from an evolutionist: it must be 100% correct. To say what Barbara Forest says about intelligent design is 100% correct without further observation is to say that everything the Republicans say about the Democrats is 100% correct, or vice versa. Think people or haven’t your brains evolved that much yet?

.: In case you didn’t notice, Chen dismisses Plunge for suggesting in an earlier post that Dr. Mims isn’t trustworthy because he’s a proponent of intelligent design, in effect claiming that such an argument is an ad hominen. After he does that, he then seriously suggests we shouldn’t trust what Dr. Forrest says about the intelligent design movement … because she’s an evolutionist and a member of the ACLU! He then gratuitously insults all of us. Once again, this is the director of the Intelligent Design Undergraduate Research Center.

.: How then does Chen react when Ed Brayton points out that he has made an ad hominen attack against Dr. Forrest without addressing any of the points raised by her? He deletes his own comment. Instead of honestly admitting error on his end, he simply tries to erase history as if he never made any of his statements. It is too late for him to convince this to anyone, however, since his remarks have already been well documented here, here, here, in several of the remaing comments on his post that have either responded to or quoted his own now-deleted words, and now in this very blog post.

.: In light of these shenanigans, one person supplied this deliciously ironic comment:

Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard when one of the High Priest’s servant women came to him and said, “You, too, were with Jesus of Galilee.” But he denied it in front of them all. “I don’t know what you are talking about,” he answered, and went on out to the entrance of the courtyard. Another servant woman saw him and said to the men there, “He was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Again Peter denied it and answered, “I swear that I don’t know that man!” After a little while the men standing there came to Peter. “Of course you are one of them,” they said. “After all, the way you speak gives you away!” Then Peter said, “I swear that I am telling the truth! May God punish me if I am not! I do not know that man!” Just then a rooster crowed, and Peter remembered what Jesus had told him: “Before the rooster crows, you will say three times that you do not know me.” He went out and wept bitterly.

.: Chen deleted it. That did not stop the same person from posting once more:

Samuel Chen, I am surprised that you would excise the Word of God from comments to your blog. I shall repost these Sacred Scriptures in the hope that you will not deny the Lord a second time [. . .]

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7 Responses to “Intelligence Denied”

  1. Junia says:

    Wow…simply wow. And not World of Warcraft.

  2. Yana says:

    I’m happy to be in Canada right now. Although even here we’re not immune – recently, a scientist has been denied an NSERC (=NSF) grant because he used “evolution” in his proposal…

    You thought we’ve progressed a little bit beyond 10th century A.D. or something?

    If I get kicked out of university for sheer utter laziness, I shall dedicate my life to restructuring the entire educational system around here AND disallowing any religious influence on education whatsoever, especially in science… there is no faith in science! ARGHHH…fundamentalists make me cringe.

  3. Jeff says:

    From Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary:
    Fundamentalism: a movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles

    For example: “I shall dedicate my life to restructuring the entire educational system around here AND disallowing any religious influence on education whatsoever, especially in science… there is no faith in science!”

  4. Cody says:

    I like how you define a word and then fail to use it in the example you provide.

  5. […] It’s been awhile since I picked on our dear friend Sam Chen, of Overwhelming Evidence fame. Two reasons for this: 1) I’ve been doing other things […]

  6. […] quick google search reveals that other people have noted Chen’s tendency for censorship and spin as well. It’s always funny to have them complain about censorship by the evil […]

  7. You can certainly see your enthusiasm in the article you write.

    The world hopes for more passionate writers such as you
    who are not afraid to mention how they believe.
    Always follow your heart.

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